Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Life Beyond

We all die, though virtually, it ain't necessarily so. Sara Paretsky's new website led me to this recent Times Magazine article , which has much to say about the ways the dead live on in their online presence, and how memory may be enhanced and shared by such possibilities.

This may seem a bit macabre, but I have already encountered my first blog ended by reason of death. This was the excellent blog of poet Reginald Shepherd, who died too young, of cancer. He's left us--his blog still remains. The survival of the blog is a good thing, I think. There is much to mine there, for those who are interested in his thought, and it remains a place where his partner can post announcements about various things related to the man and the poetry. Still, it does remain slightly unsettling to go to the bottom of my blog roll and click on that blog. I am tempted to erase it sometimes, as it's hardly dynamic.

For now, though, I think I'll leave it be.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On Forgetting Where You Read It

It's slightly ironic that I thought my next post here would be about a quote from Antonio Machado regarding dreams and memory. As those of you who have your own blogs may recognize, an aspect of the blogging world is that it turns many pieces of your own life into potential material. So I was quite excited when, going through a stack of used books I was considering purchasing, I came across this opening quote that seemed so apt.

Unfortunately, I can't find it again.

I've looked at all the books I thought it was in, but no dice. I've done a little internet research, but it turns out Machado has spoken, or perhaps more accurately, written poetry about dreams and memory many times. In any case, the quote did not come back to me.

Fortunately, this has sent me on a somewhat different tack about memory. I couldn't tell you how many times I have read something brilliant, or that resonated with me, or at the very least was worth recalling and pondering, and then been too lazy to drop what I was doing and write it down. Neither could I recount the number of times I have subsequently searched the text I know it was in, only to come up empty handed. "It had to have been about here." "I remember it came right after this." "I am absolutely sure it was on the left hand side of the page, towards the middle." If I turn out to be fifty percent right about these 'certainties', I'd be surprised.

More often than not, I never find the line that caught my interest again.

Now I'm sure more tenacious people, or those rare, commendable people with photographic memories, are sneering slightly at this point. And really, I don't blame them. I must say that if by now I haven't learned that I should at least make note of the page number, or in this case, the title--by which I mean actually write it down--well, more fool me.

But here's the interesting part. Sometimes, I do find the quote. And usually, it is not quite how I remembered. It does not quite express the point I thought it did. It says something almost the same, but not quite. It turns out that I have put my own spin on it. Used it to my own ends. It's not usually in contradiction to what the writer has to say, but my own brain has 'tweaked' it slightly. In some way, my mind has taken the ball and run with it. Hopefully towards our side's goalpost, but not always.

I like to think that this doesn't mean that I am just a careless reader, though obviously, sometimes I am. The more charitable view is that we all read things and sometimes identify closely with them, leading to our own insights, which we then in turn read back into the text, altering it ever so slightly as we go.

At least, I really hope it's not just me.